Backing for cap on legal fees in clinical negligence cases

The Government has announced it will set up a working group to examine how to introduce a cap on legal fees in clinical negligence cases involving claims of up to £25,000.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the working group will report back later this year with recommendations on a system for claims up to £25,000, along with other improvements that could be made to the clinical negligence process.

However, while medical defence organisations have welcomed the cap, they have warned that the limit of £25,000 is insufficient and that it should be introduced on claims up to £250,000.

As one spokesman for such an organisation commented, from the £1.7 billion the NHS paid out on clinical negligence costs in 2016/17, legal costs accounted for 37 per cent of that bill.  He added that the industry had hoped therefore to see a bolder decision on the threshold, with cases up to the value of £250,000 included in a scheme.

Meanwhile, another commentator agreed that fixing costs for legal fees will only make a difference if the threshold for clinical negligence claims is set at £250,000, not £25,000 as proposed by a judge last year.  He added that patients who believe they have been negligently harmed must have access to justice, but fixed costs are fairer and will help to establish some much-needed balance to the system.

Spiralling clinical negligence costs have led to huge increases in GPs’ medical indemnity fees, with one survey revealing that three in five GPs had cut the number of sessions they worked because of indemnity costs.

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